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To Scientologists, founder L. Ron Hubbard is a larger-than-life figure — a war hero, philosopher and humanitarian.
But the real man was a dissembling, emotional wreck who made up most of his legendary exploits out of whole cloth, writes British journalist Russell Miller.
Miller’s account of Hubbard’s life was so devastating that Scientology tried to have his book banned. “Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard,” finished the year after Hubbard’s 1986 death, was successfully printed everywhere but in the US, where, after two years of litigation, Miller’s American publisher threw in the towel.
The biography was heavily cited by later Scientology books, including Lawrence Wright’s bestselling “Going Clear.” But few Americans have had a chance to read it.
Until now. Twenty-seven years after its original release, “Bare-Faced Messiah” is getting new life with a new publisher, Silvertail Books.
Miller has rewritten some of the introductory material, but otherwise the book is unchanged — and it still holds up. “Bare-Faced Messiah” is a gripping read that tears the fabric of the Hubbard myth into tatters.
Doctor, Physicist, Liar
For example, the legend promoted by Scientology said that L. Ron Hubbard had grown up breaking wild horses as a child on his grandfather’s Montana ranch, which took up fully a fourth of the entire state. Miller showed instead that Ron’s grandfather was “a small-time veterinarian who supplemented his income renting out horses and buggies from a livery barn.” The family actually led an itinerant existence, moving repeatedly after Ron’s Nebraska birth in 1911 until they ended up in the Pacific Northwest.
The legend said Hubbard had made extensive travels to Asia, where the budding teenaged philosopher communed with holy men and mystics who had great respect for the young American’s precocity.
Miller found instead that Hubbard had made two trips to Asia while his father was stationed in Guam and made observations that were pretty typical for a teenager. In Beijing in 1928, Hubbard noted that the Chinese could make millions if they turned the Great Wall into a roller coaster. But ultimately, he was unimpressed with the country, writing in his journal, “The trouble with China is, there are too many chinks here.”